IT WAS a pleasure to meet East Lothian Council Countryside Rangers last week. They’ve been under the cosh recently, as the downside of ‘staycationing’ has been felt across the county.

Tourism is vital for East Lothian, with businesses and jobs depending upon it. The recent rush of visitors to hotels and chalet parks has been welcome and badly needed given that so much has been lost. But that sector is set up to deal with visitors.

However, others have been coming and doing as they please and without booking in anywhere. That has seen some parking wherever they like and acting however they feel, with neither care nor consideration for locals. Even more concerning, though, have been the actions of others who have been ‘wild camping’, but in effect settling down wherever they wish.

From my discussions with the rangers, it’s clear that the term ‘wild camping’ needs defined, and powers must be available to regulate it. It was originally meant to be for those overnighting under canvas as they trekked or climbed. They knew the outdoors and cared for it, leaving a limited environmental footprint behind, as they passed on. It was never meant to include a beach vacation or a long stay at a beauty spot. The rangers have faced issues from litter to fires being lit, regardless of harm or danger to the habitat, and the natural environment being used as an open toilet.

These council officers do an excellent job, maintaining the natural environment and educating people about it. But they can’t do their job properly if it’s trashed and when they’re having to act as parking attendants or site wardens. So I’ll be seeking to have ‘wild camping’ addressed and suitable powers available. By all means come and visit but stay where it’s appropriate and cherish what you find. John Muir, Dunbar’s famous son, established the great American national parks; maybe there’s lessons there for Scotland.